Category: Insights into Implementation

Providing Flexible Pathways and Personalized Learning Options for All Students

November 1, 2018 by

This is the third in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont.

A central feature of Vermont’s Act 77 and the Educational Quality Standards is that students have access to personalized learning opportunities and flexible pathways to graduation. In many traditional schools, there are only a few avenues for students to follow. Without credits, meeting graduation requirements through non-traditional formats is actually easier, as long as those opportunities are tied to certain proficiencies. Through flexible pathways, students are not hamstrung to take specific courses or follow a predetermined course. At Mill River Unified Union School District, we looked for ways to completely rethink what it means to learn and go to school. (more…)

Supporting Teachers with Making Sense of Proficiency-Based Learning

October 31, 2018 by

This is the second in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont.

For many teachers, proficiency-based learning (PBL) is a significant shift from past practice. Though certain aspects of PBL are familiar to some teachers, putting proficiency into consistent practice can be a heavy lift. This shift requires new knowledge and skills, while simultaneously jettisoning numerous past practices. Building teacher capacity is a central requirement for ensuring the successful implementation of PBL. Without time to make sense of the shift and opportunities for new learning, teachers will not be sufficiently prepared to make substantive changes to pedagogy.

At Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD), intentional educational infrastructure is leveraged to build teacher understanding of proficiency-based learning so as to ensure equitable outcomes for students. A district-wide teacher learning system supports our ongoing effort to implement PBL practices K-12. Making up this “educational infrastructure” are several key elements, including: instructional coaches, collaborative work time, and curriculum tools.   (more…)

Transparency: Operating with a Clear Instructional Vision to Put Policy into Practice

October 30, 2018 by

Andrew Jones

This is the first in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont.

Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD) is a small, rural district located in southwest Vermont. Made up of four K-6 schools and one 7-12 union middle/high school, MRUUSD, like most districts in Vermont, is actively engaged in the implementation of proficiency and personalized learning practices. Act 77 and the Educational Quality Standards (EQS), enacted in 2013 and 2014 respectively, are state policies that require elements of personalized learning and proficiency-based learning, including the provision that high school students earn their diplomas based on proficiency and not credits starting with the graduating class of 2020. Mill River School District has embraced these policies as an opportunity to improve student outcomes while simultaneously providing more equitable experiences for all students. Framing our work toward proficiency is a district instructional vision. (more…)

CBE Problems of Practice: Late Work

October 29, 2018 by

This is the sixth in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on gradingattendancepace, individualized learning, and granularity.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

6. Removing all consequences for late work. Much like the issue of attendance, learning what level and amount of effort is required to complete something and time management are important aspects of learning. Some schools have jumped to removing all consequences for late work, thereby supporting the idea that it isn’t important to be timely. This is a misstep in implementation that has placed unacceptable levels of burden on teachers who receive all assignments at the end of the year. Again, as schools separate out behaviors from grading academic progress, it is important to replace it with something else. Habits of success such as time management and lifelong learning skills such as self-regulation are critically important for academic success. These need to be emphasized and reflected upon in terms of their impact on student progress. (more…)

Customizing a System for Us by Us

October 24, 2018 by

Image from the Ridgewood High School website.

We came to Nashville on Sunday, invited by Chris Sturgis to participate in the iNACOL pre-conference Competency Education Leadership Forum. We came to get the answers to questions. These were questions that we had yet to find the answers to despite our best efforts.

Using the 16 Quality Principles as our framework, we connected with educational leaders from all over the country and learned that our remaining questions are their remaining questions. During the Leadership Forum, our collaborative efforts to answer our shared questions revealed that our questions had not been answered because we are the designers and the pioneers driving the transformation of learning. That is the message. These aren’t questions to be discovered and created, not simply answered. (more…)

Competency-Based Education: The Break from Tradition that Our Schools Need

October 22, 2018 by

At this year’s iNACOL 2018 Symposium, I will have two opportunities to share my thoughts and experiences after spending a decade leading a New Hampshire high school through a transformation from a traditional to a competency-based system. The first will be in a Sunday morning pre-conference session entitled “Learning from School-Based Practitioners: Building a Successful Competency-Based Education System in your District/School.” There, my colleague Jonathan Vander Els and I will share resources and tools from our 2017 Solution Tree book entitled Breaking With Tradition, the Shift to Competency-Based Learning in PLCs at Work. On Tuesday morning, Jonathan and I will join our good friends: competency educational specialist Rose Colby and Ace Parsi of the National Center for Learning Disabilities for a breakout session entitled “Leveraging Competency Education to Promote Equity for ALL Students by Prioritizing Academic and Personal Competencies Supported by Effective Leadership, Personalization, and PLCs.” (more…)

CBE Problems of Practice: Granularity on Advance Upon Mastery is Too Small

by

This is the fifth in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on gradingattendance, pace, and individualized learning.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

5. Demanding that students demonstrate achievement on every small standard. We’ve heard of situations in which schools are holding students back from more advanced studies due to not learning very small and inconsequential skills or knowledge. Parents are legitimately asking about the value of some learning standards that were designed with coverage in mind, but are now being used for student level accountability in a competency-based system. In (more…)

A Decade On: Lindsay Unified’s Personalized Learning Journey

October 17, 2018 by

A young reader at Lindsay Unified’s Kennedy Elementary.

This post originally appeared at Education Week’s Next Gen Learning in Action blog on September 21, 2018. All images are courtesy of Lindsay Unified District. 

When educators tell the story of what galvanized them to embrace next gen learning, they often point to a watershed moment, a realization that so fundamentally shifted their thinking that it divided their career into “before” and “after.” (more…)

CBE Problems of Practice: Individualizing Learning

October 15, 2018 by

This is the fourth in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on gradingattendance, and pace.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

4. Defaulting to individual learning rather than cohorts of learners. Building on pace, quite a few districts have pushed for individual learning. It takes a very talented teacher to differentiate to this level; few are trained well to do so, few have received any training, and most are struggling. In fact, recent research suggests that collaboration brings valuable benefits to students and should be considered an important aspect of student-centered learning. (more…)

CBE Problems of Practice: Self-Pace and Faster is Better

October 8, 2018 by

This is the third in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on grading and attendance.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

3. Designs based on student pace, not depth of learning. Quite a few districts have been designing their learning, curriculum, and instruction for kids to pass through the system as fast as they could. Students earn a passing grade (a 3 or at least a C) on something and then quickly moved on to the next thing. This can lead to a series of learning that was “good enough” but never “great.” So students are essentially doing enough to get by but not enough to excel. (more…)

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